Take-home Naloxone kits will be distributed to people deemed to be at risk of an overdose in a bid to reduce Scotland’s number of drug deaths.
To Save Lives kits will be handed out by the Scottish Ambulance service to those at a high risk including patients who have been resuscitated following an accidental overdose.
The move comes after the highest annual figure for deaths as a result of drug misuse was recorded last year.
The total of 1264 deaths was up 6% on the 1187 drugs-related deaths recorded in 2018.
It is the worst rate in Europe and three-and-half times that of the UK as a whole in terms of the number of deaths per million people.
The kits, which can reduce the risk of a fatal overdose from opiates, will be distributed by a programme funded by the Drugs Deaths Taskforce.
Ambulance crews responded to around 5000 incidents in which Naloxone, an opiate antidote, was administered in 2019.
Providing take-home kits means friends and relatives of those at risk will be able to administer Naloxone themselves while emergency crews are on their way, further reducing the chance of a fatality.
The kits will be supplied at incidents after 999 has been called for a person experiencing an accidental overdose.
Those at risk of witnessing a future opiate overdose, such as family and carer groups, will be given a kit and training in how to administer it.
Angela Constance, minister for drugs policy, said: “As part of a wide range of measures to address the public health emergency of drugs deaths, tools like Naloxone play an important part.
“We know that Naloxone is a very effective way of reducing death by overdose. By providing take-home kits in certain circumstances, there is a chance that a relative or friend will be able to administer it early in the episode, increasing the prospects of a successful outcome.
“Of course, we want to help people long before they get to the point of a life-threatening overdose. That is why we are embarking on a new national mission to reduce drugs deaths, and one which will have people with lived experience, and their families, front and centre.
“Our ambulance staff have been doing an amazing job each day to save lives in the most challenging of circumstances which are being experienced across our healthcare services. They have all been remarkable this year and continue to be an exemplary public service, always prepared to do more in the interests of public health.”
Dr Jim Ward, medical director for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “The Scottish Ambulance Service is determined to play a key role in reducing deaths and harm resulting from drug use in Scotland.
“The funding provided by the Drug Deaths Task Force has also allowed us to appoint to three full-time posts supporting the work of SAS clinicians across the whole of Scotland, to further increase focus and momentum on how the ambulance service can help save more lives and prevent drug related harm.
“SAS is also strengthening its relationship with local drug services and is progressing plans to signpost our patients affected by drug use to these local services who have a key role in support and prevention of drug related harm.”